(Photo: Bleacher Report)
The World Baseball Classic came to a close on Tuesday night after a riveting final game between Japan and the U.S.A. which saw Japan win three to two. The tournament showcased the level of baseball on the global scale and through the thrilling three weeks, plenty of players and teams differentiated themselves. Some were big winners, making big names or cementing legacies, and well others could use a break from social media for a little while. Here are the winners and losers of the W.B.C.
A man who certainly outshined the rest of the pack in this year’s World Baseball Classic was shortstop Trea Turner, a.k.a this year’s “Captain America.”
Fresh off one of the best seasons of his MLB career and a healthy new contract signed this offseason with the Philadelphia Phillies worth $300 million, the 29-year-old is at the peak of his powers as arguably the best shortstop in baseball and was a no-brainer addition to the Team U.S.A. roster. Usually known for his speed and contact ability, it was his power that made the difference for Team U.S.A. as they reached the final of the tournament. Turner slashed .391/.440/.1.043 (AVG/OBP/SLG) and led the entire tournament in home runs with 5 of them in 6 games including a now-legendary grand slam against Venezuela to send his team through to the semi-finals. The Phillies coming off of a trip to the World Series are surely even more over the moon with Turner coming into camp after this electric performance.
Loser: The New York Mets (Somehow)
The first loser comes as a division rival of the Phillies.
Although this was not an MLB-run event and it is still only spring training for them, the New York Mets suffered a massive loss when closing pitcher Edwin Diaz tore his patellar tendon mid-celebration of a Puerto Rico win. Diaz will most likely be out for the year which is a massive blow for the Mets bullpen as Diaz is coming off a year with a 1.31 ERA and an All-Star appearance and his injury happened in a tournament out of the Mets’ control. It does not take away from playing in the World Baseball Classic, as unfortunately injuries happen regardless, but losses need to be counted so the Mets take an early loss this year.
Winner: Ohtani, Nootbaar, and Japan…Duh
Obviously, Team Japan cannot go unnamed as the big winner of the whole tournament. Named one of the favorites to win from the jump and touting arguably the greatest baseball player the world has seen, they definitely lived up to the hype by winning their third championship in just their fifth interaction of the international event. They also did it with some big-name MLB players who are now legendary names in Japan.
Shohei Ohtani is the best baseball player in the world. In the tournament, he pitched 9 ⅔ innings with 11 K’s, including shutting the door against Team U.S.A. in the final after striking out Los Angeles Angels teammate, Mike Trout, in a final dream at-bat that baseball fans were craving for from the start of the tournament. He also was one of the best hitters in the tournament as he slashed .435/.606/.739 (AVG/OBP/SLG) at the plate. He is an unreal athlete, one that baseball has never seen at his level. Hopefully, he can keep entertaining baseball fans for many years to come.
(Photo: Japan Today)
Another big winner from the tournament is St. Louis Cardinals outfielder, Lars Nootbaar. Nootbaar, an American-born player, made history as the first player to make the Japanese roster not born in Japan.
Although there was a language barrier for him, it did not take long for the fan-favorite Cardinal to win over the baseball-crazed Japanese fans. This started with the team’s adoption of his salt and pepper grinder celebration which began during the previous Cardinals’ season. With Nootbaar’s infectious personality, the celebration took over Japan with everyone — kids, news outlets, and even public officials — imitating it. Nootbaar had a solid tournament but the star he became off the field is why he is a big winner.
Loser: Great Britain Design Team
Should this be a joint loss with Nike?
Great Britain did not have a spectacular showing at this year’s World Baseball Classic as they did not make it out of the group stage. However, they did make a statement on social media with their jersey design. The very generic font sparked a viral conversation on how they even got through the approval process, much less of the pressers and onto the players.
Hopefully, as baseball grows over in the U.K., they look to put a little more effort into their jerseys for next time around.
Winner: Baseball Fans
Finally, and this may sound cliche, but the big winners at the end of the day were baseball fans because the final games were awesome.
The World Baseball Classic creates a unique atmosphere and offers opportunities for new heroes to be born. From the brilliance of Shohei Ohtani to the fun and excitable Randy Arozarena, the tournament had everything baseball fans want and the numbers reflect that. The final between the U.S.A. and Japan had an average viewer number of 4.48 million which blows past the previous high for the W.B.C. It is not quite at the level of playoff baseball but it definitely captures the intensity of it and viewers are starting to take notice.
As fans now transition into the regularly scheduled programming, they will surely not forget what they just witnessed and are probably marking their calendars already for the next time around.